By Chris Bulfinch for CoinWeek …..
At noon on May 24, 2021, the United States Mint will release two .999 fine uncirculated silver dollar coins, the first two honoring the centennial of the Morgan dollar’s reintroduction. The coins each have a privy mark–“O” and “CC”, respectively–placed beneath the wreath on the reverse in place of the New Orleans and Carson City mint marks that appeared on the dollars struck at those facilities in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Both dollars have a Product Limit of 175,000 coins, with household ordering limits of 25 coins.
2021 Morgan dollars with San Francisco’s “S” and Denver’s “D” mint marks will be released on June 1. Another dollar without a privy or mint mark will be released alongside a 2021 Peace dollar on June 7. The dollars with “O” and “CC” privy marks will be available for $85 (USD) each.
History of the Morgan and Peace Dollars
Introduced in 1878 and named for its designer George T. Morgan, a British-born engraver who began working at the Mint in 1876 (and would later serve as Chief Engraver), Morgan dollars were authorized by the Bland-Allison Act. Signed into law in 1878, the Act required the government to purchase between two and four million ounces of silver per month and turn the metal into .900 fine dollar coins, each piece containing roughly three-quarters of an ounce of silver (.77). Morgan dollars were struck at the Philadelphia, San Francisco, New Orleans, and Carson City mint facilities, each facility applying its mint mark to the coins’ reverse, below the laurel wreath encircling the eagle.
Although demand for the coin never matched its mandated production totals, the Morgan dollar was a mainstay in commercial channels west of the Mississippi River and backed paper money issued across the country for decades after production stopped.
The Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890 expanded the government’s obligation to purchase silver. But then Grover Cleveland was elected president in November of 1892 and attributed the Panic of 1893 to the government’s expanded silver purchasing obligation; he called for the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, which was affected in November of 1893. Almost five years later, Congress passed the Act of June 13, 1898, which stipulated that all of the silver purchased under the terms of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890 be coined into Morgan dollars. The United States Mint depleted the silver supply in 1904, and Morgan dollar production stopped.
The Carson City Mint suspended its coining operations in 1893 and never resumed; the facility was designated an assay office in 1899. The New Orleans Mint followed suit in 1909. Both facilities continued striking Morgan dollars until they suspended coining operations.
In 1918, hundreds of millions of stockpiled Morgan dollars were melted under the terms of the Pittman Act and much of the resulting bullion was sold to Britain to support their monetary regime in India, which was suffering from a run on silver. The Pittman Act required the replacement of all melted dollars, which led to the Morgan dollar’s resurrection in 1921.
Unfortunately, the original tooling for the Morgan dollar had been destroyed in 1910, so in 1920 George T. Morgan (who had been named Chief Engraver in 1917) and Assistant Engraver John Sinnock created transfer dies using an 1878 7 Tail Feathers coin. Hubs were then made from the transfer dies. By 1921, the Mint had suspended coinage at New Orleans and Carson City and opened a new facility in Denver (in 1906), so the new dollars were struck at three facilities, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Denver.
With silver dollars circulating again, the American Numismatic Association agitated for a new design for the cartwheels, and in December of 1921, the Peace dollar was introduced. Anthony de Francisci’s design commemorated the end of the First World War and the coins were struck until 1928 to meet the requirements of the Pittman Act.
The 1921 Silver Dollar Commemorative Coin Act
On March 11, 2020, Rep. Andy Barr (R–KY6) introduced H.R. 6192, the 1921 Silver Dollar Commemorative Coin Act, to the House of Representatives. The legislation’s “Findings” section claims:
“[C]onversion from the Morgan silver dollar to the Peace silver dollar design in 1921 reflected a pivotal moment in American history. The Morgan silver dollar represents the country’s westward expansion and industrial development in the late 19th century. The Peace silver dollar symbolizes the country’s coming of age as an international power while recognizing the sacrifices made by her citizens in World War I and celebrating the victory and peace that ensued.”
The legislation stipulates that the 2021 Morgan dollar “shall have an obverse design and a reverse design that are renditions of the designs historically used on the obverse and reverse of the Morgan dollar.” The coins will “contain not less than 90 percent silver”; the coins will be .999 fine, struck on the same planchets as commemorative dollar coins. The original Morgan dollars were .900 fine, with copper rounding out the alloy.
H.R. 6192 passed the House on September 22, 2020, and the Senate on December 17. It became Public Law 116-286 on January 5 when it was signed by President Donald Trump.
A similar bill was introduced to the House on July 15, 2019, by Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D–MO5), co-sponsored by Rep. Barr. A parallel bill was introduced to the Senate in the summer of 2020.
Citizens’ Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) members Thomas J. Uram and Mike Moran were the driving force behind the introduction of the legislation.
The 2021 Morgan Dollars are considered numismatic products, not one of this year’s two commemorative coin programs.
Mint Marks and Privy Marks
The 2021 coins will be struck the Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco Mints, the same facilities that struck the original Morgan and Peace Dollars in 1921. To honor the facilities no longer in operation, the Mint will apply privy marks recreating the “O” and “CC” mint marks.
As for privy marks, the United States has applied marks to its coinage for centuries. In the 1850s and ’70s, for instance, in response to fluctuating precious metals prices, the mint changed the weight of silver subsidiary coinage and applied arrow-shaped privy marks on either side of the dates on the obverses of the Seated Liberty coinage.
And in recent years, privy marks have been something of a trend on United States coins. Each year, the American Innovation dollar coins sport a new privy mark. In 2009, a privy mark shaped like an eagle’s head appeared on the reverse of that year’s American Platinum Eagle bullion coins and remained until 2014.
Last year, the addition of “End of World War II” privy marks to American Silver Eagle and Gold Eagle bullion coins created a bottleneck and immediate sellout when the Mint capped mintages of the privy-marked gold eagle at 1,945. The privy marks, shaped like the National World War II Memorial with “V75” inscribed within, also appeared on America the Beautiful quarter dollars struck at the West Point Mint.
The privy marks set to appear on the 2021 Morgan dollars have the letters of the original mint marks struck incuse into a cartouche. Coins struck at Denver and San Francisco will have the facilities’ mint marks. Some coins struck in Philadelphia will not have privy marks or mint marks, like Morgan dollars struck at the Philadelphia Mint in the 19th and 20th centuries.
With household ordering limits set at 25 and product limits set at 175,000, the coins may sell out quickly, like the 2021-W Proof American Silver Eagle Reverse of 1986, which sold out in minutes earlier this year.